There’s an interesting scandal playing out in Europe. Products marketed as beef in fact contain horsemeat, and consumers and governments are outraged.
In all, “beef” products sold in 16 different countries have been found to contain horsemeat. Efforts to trace the source of the horsemeat follow a tortured path from British stores to France, Luxembourg, Cyprus, and the Netherlands. Ultimately, the trail leads to Romania, where officials disclaim any role in a fraud: if Romanian slaughterhouses are producing horsemeat, they say, it is forthrightly labeled as horsemeat. No one, therefore, quite seems to know how horsemeat got into the “beef” product chain. That’s why the British Environment Secretary says the scandal involves some kind of international criminal conspiracy. No one has gotten sick — although health ministers want to test products to make sure they don’t include an animal painkiller that could pose risks for humans — and the fraud claims all relate to simply mislabeling horsemeat as beef.
At bottom, the issue seems to boil down to squeamishness about eating horsemeat. No one wants to eat My Friend Flicka. Why is there a cultural taboo in some countries about eating a horse? We eat cows, chickens, buffalo, pigs, goats, sheep, lambs, ducks, geese, and other birds. Why should those animals be knocked off to enhance the food supply, but not horses?
I’ve never eaten horsemeat — at least, I don’t think I have, although as this EU scandal indicates, you never really know — but I wouldn’t hesitate to give it a try. Meat is meat, and meat is protein. In my view, the fact that it once wore a saddle doesn’t change the analysis.